Friday, July 30, 2010

TRS poised for clean sweep

Riding high on the pro-Telangana sentiment, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is poised to win 11 Assembly seats and its ally, the BJP, one seat in the by-elections which were held on July 26.

Counting of votes that began at 8 a.m. on Friday in all the 12 constituencies has been completed in seven and the results in all of them have gone in the TRS' favour, while the BJP has bagged the lone seat it contested. In the remaining five seats too, the TRS candidates are expected to win easily.

The TRS established early and unassailable leads. Its nominee from Siddipet, T. Harish Rao, who is nephew of TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao, was the first to be declare elected. He won by a record majority of 95,858 votes while his Congress and TDP challengers forfeited their security deposits.

The Congress suffered a big blow when APCC president D. Srinivas, who is the party's candidate from Nizamabad Urban, was defeated for the second consecutive time in 14 months by BJP's Y. Lakshminarayana. At one stage during the counting, Mr. Srinivas narrowed down the lead to about 5,000 votes, the nearest any candidate came anywhere near winning, but conceded defeat in the final and 19th round.

The Telugu Desam candidates put up a poor performance in the by-elections. While counting was still in progress, they were trailing in the third position in most constituencies, barring Mancherial in Adilabad district.

The by-elections were necessitated by the resignation of 10 MLAs of the TRS and one each of the TDP and BJP earlier this year. Going by the counting trends, all of them (TDP MLA joined TRS and contested on its ticket) are likely to retain their seats.

There were scenes of jubiliation in the TRS' headquarters at Jubilee Hills here. Reacting to the by-election results, Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said he respected the people's mandate.

Babu to take up Tirumala yatra

After drawing the attention of the country to the Babli project, the Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, has now decided to undertake a padayatra on August 7 and 8 to the abode of Lord Venkateshwara, Tirumala to expose the “misdeeds” going on at Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and other temples in Chittoor.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) and other temples under the Government Endowment Department in Chittoor district have been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late. Recently the government got a wake up call regarding the pathetic conditions at the temples when the Vijayagopuram near the famed Srikalahasti temple near Tirupati collapsed.

Mr Naidu and other Telugu Desam leaders will stage a dharna in front of the TTD Executive Officer’s office at Tirupati on August 7 to protest against the irregularities in TTD and other temples under its management and then undertake a padayatra to Tirumala.

The Telugu Desam chief will begin the padayatra from Alipiri (foot hills of Tirumala), where he had escaped from the jaws of death in a mine blast triggered by Maoists, and reach the Lord Venkateshwara Swamy Temple at Tirumala, about 14 km away.

Mr Naidu and his team will stage a silent protest in front of the temple, have darshan of the Lord and return to Tirupati. Since all kinds of political protests are banned atop the hill, one has to wait and see if the authorities allow the Naidu brigade to visit Tirumala.

On August 8, the TD leaders will visit the site of the Vijayagopuram at Srikalahasti temple which collapsed recently and also visit the Vinayaka temple at Kanipakam.

Proposed YSR park faces water scarcity

The officials are at their wits’ ends to provide water for the YSR memorial park at Nallamala forest. None of the three bore wells dug so far has yielded any water. Incidentally, YSR is known as a modern day Bhagiratha for taking up all pending irrigation works under the Jalayagnam scheme.

The state government had sanctioned the Dr YSR Smruthi Vanam Project to be taken up by the forest department at a cost of Rs 13 crore in two stages. The location of the park is on the Atmakur-Nandyala route and stage-I works are now continuing at a brisk pace to meet the inauguration deadline of September 2, coinciding with the first death anniversary of YSR.

“We were facing a major problem in getting water for the project as the three borewells did not yield any water. Thanks to the recent rains, we have some water in the borewells,” the project officer of the park, Mr Chandramohan Reddy, said.

Project officials are clueless about this peculiar problem of water shortage as the area is adjacent to the Nallamala forest and a large irrigation dam, Velugodu, is nearby. Mr Reddy said that the assumption of many people that the YSR Park would destroy the ecology of the region and the constructions would hamper the movements of wild life in the area was baseless.

“We are not taking up any activity at Pavuralagutta. The park is situated 20 km away from the site. Even movement of people is prohibited in the core area of the Gundla Bhrahm-eswaram Wildlife Sanctuary,” Mr Reddy added.

According to the official, the park will enhance the forest restoration and habitat improvement. “The ecology of the Nallamala forest will be highlighted for the first time as there is no documentation of this famous forest range,” Mr Reddy said.

Jagan ends one leg of tour, talks about rivals

The Kadapa MP, Jagan Mohan Reddy, on Thursday concluded his 18-day Odarpu yatra in East Godavari district. While recalling the contribution of his father, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, Mr Jagan said, “It is not how long one lives, but it is how he lives.”

Mr Jagan wondered aloud how long he would have to bear with the current situation in the state when his father’s deeds were being questioned by detractors. “Leaders such as Ms Konda Surekha and Mr Ambati Ramabu were being suspended on the baseless charges,” he said. Mr Jagan said he was upset that his rivals had chosen to make his Odarpu yatra a controversy, when his only motive was to keep the promise made by him at a condolence meeting at Pavuralagutta on September 25.

“Were not the people, who lost their lives in the aftermath of his father’s death, Congress workers,” Jagan said. Over 20 MLAs and five MLCs were present on the last day of the tour. The social welfare minister, Mr P. Subhash Chandrabose, Mr Ambati Rambabu, Ms Konda Surekha, Mr Konda Murali, Mr B. Karunakara Reddy, former ministers, Mr Konatala Ramakrishna and Mr Jaggampudi Rammohana Rao were among those present.

Ideal man, woman now weigh 60, 55 kg

The ideal Indian man is now five kg heavier and the ideal woman weighs 10 kg more than their ancestors in the pre-Independence era. The Centre has fixed the weight of the Indian “reference man” at 60 kg and the Indian “reference woman” at 55 kg.

These figures will now be taken as the standard weight for Indian adult. The earlier values were 55 kg for the man and 45 kg for the woman, and were fixed before Independence.

These new anthropometric values were suggested by an expert committee on daily recommended dietary allowance appointed by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

According to the committee, the ideal or reference man of India is between 18 and 29 years of age and weighs 60 kg with a height of 1.73 metres and a body mass index of 20.3. He is free from disease and physically fit for active work.

Likewise, the reference woman is aged between 18 and 29 and weighs 55 kgs with a height of 1.61 metres, a body mass index of 21.2. She should also be non-pregnant and non-lactating and physically fit for active work. Based on these new anthropometric values, the total calorie intake for an Indian adult man has been fixed at 2,320 kilo calories if he leads a sedentary life.

The values for moderate work and heavy work respectively are 2,730 kilo calories and 3,490 kilo calories. The corresponding figures for the ideal Indian woman are 1,900 kcal, 2,230 kcal and 2,850 kcal.

“For any nation to have its own recommended dietary allowance there needs to be an ideal or reference man and woman,” said Dr B.S. Narasinga Rao, chairman of the experts committee. “We have arrived at the new values based on the present day conditions,” he said.

The earlier values were fixed before Independence (1936-1944) on the recommendations of the committee of nutrition, British Medical Association, and the health committee of the League of Nations.

PM calls for Maha, AP Babli meet on Aug. 2

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has convened a joint meeting of the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra on August 2 to find a political solution to the Babli project row.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday sent a communication to the AP Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, in this regard. Thanking the Prime Minister for heeding the request of the all party delegation to find a political solution, Mr Rosaiah told mediapersons that he would convene an all party meeting on August 1 to discuss the strategy to be adopted at the meeting with his Maharashtra counterpart.

When asked whether he was hopeful of the joint meeting, Mr Rosaiah said he always had a positive attitude and hoped that the state would benefit from it. At the same time, the state government has decided to effectively “expose” the neighbouring state in the meeting amid apprehensions that Maharashtra might take cover under an ongoing case in the Supreme Court. “We pressed for a political solution after Maharashtra went ahead and erected gates violating an interim order of the Supreme Court,” said a senior official.

The Chief Minister added that in a federal system the Prime Minister has to play the role of an adjudicator and cannot leave the neighbouring states to wage war against each other. “We feel happy that the Prime Minister convened the meeting and we will put forth our views strongly,” he said.

10 am: Harish Rao leads TRS rally with record win, DS trails by 12K

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti's K Harish Rao won the Siddipet bypoll with an astounding margin on 98,000 votes, even as the TRS and BJP moved decisively to retain all their seats.

Thanks to Mr Rao's record margin, his Congress and Telugu Desam opponents lost their deposits.

In Nizamabad Urban, perhaps the most watched bypoll battle, the BJP's Y. Lakshminarayana was forging ahead at the end of the seventh round of counting. He was leading by 12,000 votes over Mr D. Srinivas, the state Congress president, dealing a severe blow to his political future.

Koppula Eshwar won the Dharmapuri (SC) seats by 35,000 votes.

TRS candidates were leading in all the other constituencies which went to polls on July 27.

The Congress had taken a slender lead of 2,000 votes in Sirpur in the first round, but the TRS made up the deficit and was leading in the subsequent rounds.

Earlier, counting for the bypolls began amid tight security in all 12 constituencies that went to the bypolls.

Results are expected by 11 am in the rest of the seats which saw the use of EVMs: Sirpur, Chennur (SC), Mancherial, Vemulawada and RNizamabad (Urban), the results having been declared at Siddipet and Dharmapuri (SC).

In Yellareddy, Koratla, Sircilla, Huzurabad and Warangal West, where ballot papers were used, results are expected towards late evening. The TRS was ahead in all these seats.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Babli turns non-issue for bypolls

The Babli and 13 other irrigation projects which the Telugu Desam is protesting against, were non -issues in the just-concluded by-polls in Telangana. Interestingly, neither Telugu Desam, nor the other parties including the Congress, Telangana Rashtra Samiti and BJP, made it a poll plank but focused mainly on Telangana and development.

In fact, the Telugu Desam leadership left the candidates and local leaders to fend for themselves in the bypolls and TD president Mr Chandrababu Naidu, who did not campaign, admitted that he had ignored the polls and had focused on Babli due to a “technical lapse”.

Asked whether it was right on the part of the of the party leadership to ignore those in the electoral fray and the reason for TD not using Babli as a poll plank, Mr Naidu said they genuinely felt that Babli was important. “We did not take the elections seriously. Elections come and go. Last time we contested 56 and won 39. Our focus was on Babli and other illegal projects since they will affect generations to come. Our concern was the interest of the state,” he said, adding, “However, we could have also focussed on the polls after we decided to contest. It was a lapse.”

About the number of seats he expected to win, Mr Naidu avoided the issue saying that he did not concentrate on polls. In another development, Mr Naidu has demanded that the Central and state governments ban the export of iron ore and other minerals to check the mining mafia. As an alternative, he suggested that the government should increase the excise and VAT by 400 or 1000 per cent so that mining lease holders ensure its availability for captive mining. This would also ensure more revenue to the state exchequer, he said.

The Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa, took a similar decision in the wake of trouble from the Gali brothers, he pointed out.

Old couple hacked to death in city

In an alarming incident, one more elderly couple staying alone was murdered at their residence in Ashok Colony in Old Kapra municipality here on Wednesday. This is one of the dozen such murders that have taken place in Cyberabad up to July this year wherein intruders had had targeted retired people living in the city outskirts without adequate security.

Kushaiguda police said that the latest victims, Mr D. Laxmana Murthi, 70, a retired Travel Ticket Examiner, and his wife, Mrs D. Krishnaveni, 65, stayed in an independent triple bedroom house. Their son, Mr D. Ram Babu, is a software engineer in Washington while their daughter, Ms Padmavathi, resides at Shivapur colony.

Early on Wednesday, their maid, Bhagyam, went to their house and found that the front door was open. She went in and saw the couple lying still on a double cot in a bedroom and raised an alarm. “The intruders killed Mrs Krishnaveni by smothering her with a pillow and strangled Mr Murthi,” said the sub-inspector, Mr Ramalinga Reddy.

Police found that the assailants stole a two tola gold chain from Mrs Krishnaveni after killing her. However, the gold and cash kept in the almirah were intact.

“Laxmana Murthi goes to her daughter’s house at 6.30 pm every day and gets dinner. However, on Tuesday he didn’t go to her daughter’s house. Their maid who went to their house at 6 pm found the door locked from the outside. So we suspect the murder might have taken place yesterday,” Mr Ramalinga Reddy said.

Rain lashes city, CM puts officials on alert

Following a forecast of heavy rains over the next three days, the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, on Wednesday directed officials to be on high alert and evacuate people from low lying areas to temporary shelters in the city.

The weather officials have issued a warning saying isolated-heavy to very-heavy rain is expected over Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, including the city, during next three days. The Chief Minister held a meeting with the chief secretary, officials of the GHMC, Water Board, the Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district collectors and the police commissioner.

He wanted the officials to prevent loss of life and property and asked officials to immediately take up relief works. Stating that the main problem in the city and its outskirts is inundation of roads that causes traffic snarls, the CM told the officials to work round the clock and pump water out.

The GHMC commissioner was told to set up a control room if needed and clear all nalas and drains. Prevention of outbreak of epidemics was also a top priority.

Rain water had entered into the shops near Maithrivanam at Ameerpet and a few houses in Borabanda on Wednesday. Rainfall recorded in centimetres at 8.30 am on Wednesday: Sirpur (13 cm); Bobbili (8 cm); Asifabad (6 cm); Addanki (5 cm); Luxettipet, Mancherial and Utnoor (4 cm each); Adilabad, Medak, Ongole, Darsi, Gajapathinagaram, Gudivada, Macherla, Patapatnam (3 cm each); Machilipatnam, Vijayawada, Avanigadda, Chinnoor, Komarada, Parvathipuram, Perur, Repalle and Veeraghattam (2 cm each).

Lobbying begins for TTD chief post

Several bigwigs including politicians and businessmen have started lobbying for the post of chairperson of the Tirumala Tirupati Devastanams (TTD), which is going to fall vacant on August 24.

Apart from the outgoing chairman and former MP, Mr D.K. Audikesavulu Naidu, the five-time Guntur MP, Mr Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, the industrialist, Mr Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao, the former Rajya Sabha member, Mr Girish Sanghi and Mrs Indira Reddy, two-term TTD Board member and wife of former MP, Mr T. Subbirami Reddy, are jostling for the post.

TTD sources said that Mr Audikesavulu, who has been chairman for two terms, is trying for another stint and is influencing the Congress high command to achieve this. In 2008, the high command had suggested his name to the then chief minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, and the latter had obliged.

Mr Audikesavulu Naidu, who was then a Telugu Desam MP, had helped out the UPA government during the trust vote in the Lok Sabha by disobeying the party whip. His appointment as TTD chairperson was seen as a quid pro quo gesture. Dr Reddy even dumped his loyalist, Mr B. Karunakara Reddy, to appoint Mr Audikesavulu.

Though Mr Audikesavulu had stirred up controversy during his tenure by allowing special VVIP Darshan and pujas at Tirumala to businessmen at odd timings causing inconvenience to devotees, he is confident of getting another term.

However, some Telugu news channels have started a campaign to stymie his chances by portraying him as pro-rich and against ordinary devotees.

Speaker rejects vote on prices

The Opposition made a valiant bid corner the government on the issue of rising prices on Wednesday in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday. However, in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker, Ms Meira Kumar, came to the rescue of the treasury benches by ruling that the adjournment motion on rising prices moved by the Opposition could not be admitted.

Her decision prompted the Opposition MPs led by the BJP and the Left to force an adjournment of the Lok Sabha as they all came trooping into the well of the House soon after she had given her ruling. The ruling came shortly after 2 pm when the House reconvened following a lunch recess.

The Rajya Sabha too could transact little business today as the Opposition forced two adjournments, the second one fo the day when the House met at 12 noon.

Leaders of the BJP and its NDA allies plan to meet President, Ms Pratibha Patil, on Thursday morning and hand over a memorandum to her.

Meanwhile, the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and the AICC general secretary, Mr Rahul Gandhi, skipped proceedings of the Lok Sabha for party work, despite a whip issued for party MPs to be present in the house. The whip was issued in the backdrop of the opposition move to press for an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha on the price rise issue, which could be followed by a vote.

When asked to comment on their absence from Lok Sabha, the AICC spokesperson, Mr Manish Tewari, tried to downplay the issue, as he said, “Yes it is correct that there was an advisory for the members to be present but the Congress President and the general secretary also have party responsibilities and organisational preoccupation.”

Fall in Nizamabad poll percentage worries DS

The electoral fortunes of the Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr D. Srinivas, wavered on Wednesday with the Election Commission declaring that the final poll percentage of Nizamabad was 45 and not 51.72 as first assumed.

The low voter turnout of 39.5 per cent proved costly for Mr Srinivas in the 2009 elections. The initial figures put out on Tuesday indicated that the PCC chief was able to mobilise minorities in his favour. But with the poll percentage being pegged at 45, there are fears that he may not romp home.

However, analysts felt that the PCC chief still had a fair chance since there was no minority candidate opposing him. “Minorities who supported the Praja Rajyam candidate in the general elections plumped for Mr Srinivas and this will make lot of difference,” said a leader.

In 2009, a strong section of minority leaders affiliated to the Congress pulled strings to field a minority candidate in the PR ticket mainly to spoil Mr Srinivas’ chances. But this time, they were all working for the PCC president.

Significantly there were divergent views on the low turnout too. While one section of leaders felt that it would favour Mr Srinivas, others suspect that it indicated the apathetic mood of minority voters.

Mr Srinivas’s aides, for instance, claimed that around their leader got 30,000 minority votes. The BJP was confident that its sitting MLA, Mr Lakshminarayana, would win again thanks to the strong Telangana sentiment. The BJP and TRS fought elections together and the TRS president, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao, campaigned for the BJP candidate.

Meanwhile, the Chief Electoral Officer, Dr I.V. Subba Rao, said that counting would begin at 8 am on Friday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maradona no longer the coach of Argentina

The Argentine Football Association said Tuesday that it would not renew Maradona’s contract, ending his erratic 21-month stint in charge of the national team that had mirrored his own long personal history of unpredictable behaviour and defiance.

The AFA had offered him a four-year contract to continue through to the 2014 World Cup, but Maradona said he would only stay if his entire staff remained.

That was an unacceptable condition to AFA president Julio Grondona, who wanted to replace several assistants including Maradona’s close friend, Alejandro Mancuso.

The AFA executive committee sided with Grondona on Tuesday, ending Maradona’s tenure.

Mohammed Asif to star in Malayalam movie

Pakistani fast bowler Mohammed Asif will make his film debut with a Malayalam movie, directed by lyricist Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri.

The shooting of the film, titled Mazhavillinnattamvare (Till the tip of the rainbow), is scheduled to begin in September.

Besides Asif, Mazhavillinnattamvare will also mark the directorial debut of Kaithapram, who has penned hundreds of songs and won several national and State awards.

“Asif is now busy playing cricket in England. He will be free by September to begin shooting in Kannur,” Kaithapram told PTI.
To play role of coach

“The film begins with Asif coming to a cricket camp in Kannur as a coach. When he travels from Lahore to Kerala, he has a personal mission too. The film will progress through his journey to his goal.”

Kaithapram has also penned the story, besides writing the the script and lyrics.

There will be five songs and a ghazal, the mixing of which will be done in London. The songs will be rendered by K.J. Yesudas, Udit Narayan, Shankar Mahadevan, K.S. Chitra, Deepankuran and Shreya Ghoshal.

The film is being produced by a Sharjah-based entrepreneur M. Mukundan, who hails from Kannur, under the banner of Valluvankadavu Recreations.

Men charged for racially abusing Indian in Australia

In a first such case in Victoria, three men have been charged with inciting racial hatred nearly six months after they physically assaulted an Indian student in this Australian city.

The police have laid racial vilification charges against all the accused who racially and physically abused an Indian student on a bus heading towards Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula on February 6.

Two of the men have been charged with inciting racial hatred, intentionally causing serious injury, assault and offensive language, AAP reported on Wednesday.

They have been ordered to appear at the Frankston Magistrates Court on September 1. A third man is expected to be summoned on the same date.

“Police are hoping the laying of charges in relation to a serious racial vilification incident will send a strong message to the community that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” a statement from Victoria Police said.

“This is the first time that charges of this nature have been put before the courts.”

Osama hired bombers in Pak: Wikileaks

Contradicting CIA’s assertion that it has no intelligence on the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden since 2003, leaked secret US military documents say the Al Qaeda chief personally attended a recruitment drive for suicide bombers in Pakistan in 2006. CIA chief Leon Panetta said in June that the last time the US had precise information on Bin Laden’s location was in the “early 2000s”.

But the US military intelligence reports leaked by the whisteblower website Wikileaks show repeated instances in which US forces saw signs of the Al Qaeda chief in Pakistan. The evidence appears to contradict Mr Penetta’s claim in June that there has been no intelligence on Al Qaeda leader since 2003, the Daily Telegraph reported, quoting the leaked documents published by the Guardian.

For example, he was reported as attending meetings with recruited suicide bombers in 2006 in Pakistan, it said. A “threat report” generated by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said: “Reportedly a high-level meeting was held in Quetta, Pakistan, where six suicide bombers were given orders for an operation in northern Afghanistan.”

“These meetings take place once every month, and there are usually about 20 people present. The place for the meeting alternates between Quetta and villages (NFDG) [no further details given] on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The top four people in these meetings are Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Dadullah and Mullah [Baradar],” according to the leaked documents. The documents also contain numerous unverifiable reports on Bin Laden’s death, the report said.

People will pick resigned MLAs, says Lagadapati

Even as the bypolls to the 12 constituencies in the Telangana region drew to a close, the Vijayawada MP, Mr Lagadapati Rajagopal, predicted that 11 constituencies would re-elect those who had resigned in the wake of the Telangana agitation. He refused to disclose who would win in the twelfth constituency. This is according to a survey conducted by an Ellur-based agency named Flash Team. Incidentally, it is a known fact that Flash Team is being owned by Mr Lagadapati.

Out of the 12 constituencies where bypolls were conducted on Tuesday, 10 were held by the TRS and one each by the BJP and the TD. Mr Rajagopal claimed that the Congress will emerge second in all the constituencies. Flash Team, Mr Rajagopal claims, has been predicting accurately since 2005. He said that all those who resigned will be winning again by a substantial margin. But he added that the outcome has nothing to do with the T-sentiment as all the candidates were in favour of Telangana.

Mani, Kalmadi slug it out over CWG

The former sports minister, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar was labelled “anti-national” by Commonwealth Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi after the senior Congress leader’s critical comments on the quadrennial event.

Mr Aiyar, who has been a vocal critic of the Games, went as far as calling the patrons of the event “evil”. “I am delighted the rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy if the Games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all these,” Mr Aiyar told reporters outside Parliament House on Tuesday.

“Those who are patronising the Games can only be evil. Thousands of crores are being spent on a circus like this while common children are being deprived of basic facilities to play sport,” Mr Aiyar said.

Reacting to the comments, Mr Kalmadi said, “No individual can spoil the Games. It is a totally irresponsible and ridiculous statement from such a senior person, who has also headed the sports ministry earlier. No Indian national can speak like this.”

He added: “With the Commonwealth Games fast approaching, he should know his responsibilities and think before making such a statement. He is an elected member of the Rajya Sabha and it is an anti-national statement from him.”

“It was because of his openness that he was removed from the sport minister’s post. If he would have been the minister, the Commonwealth Games would never have come to India,” Mr Kalmadi said.

Banks not to increase loan rates

If you have an outstanding home loan, car loan or personal loan, you can breathe a little easy, for now. Although the Reserve Bank of India raised key policy rates on Tuesday in a bid to control rising prices, banks have ruled out immediate hikes in lending and deposit rates. However, in the medium term — which is three to four months — all these rates are expected to go up as the economy grows and credit growth picks up.

The RBI on Tuesday hiked the repo and reverse repo rates — the rates at which banks borrow money from it and vice versa — by a quarter per cent and a half per cent respectively. This is the fourth such hike in 2010. Higher rates are a part of the RBI’s monetary policy to control rising prices. In its latest credit policy, the RBI has clearly identified rising prices as the biggest worry.

Congress, TD eye 3 seats, TRS sure of 12

The ruling Congress and the opposition Telugu Desam are confident of snatching away at least three seats — Nizamabad Urban, Sirpur and Mancherial — from the Telangana Rashtra Samiti-BJP alliance in the by-elections to the 12 Assembly constituencies held on Tuesday.

However, the TRS is sure of winning all the seats. “The TRS will win all seats where bypolls were held,” Mr T. Harish Rao said after launching the celebrations in Siddipet in the evening.

In Nizamabad Urban segment, the Congress candidate, the PCC chief, Mr D. Srinivas, who pumped in all “resources” at his command, appeared to be the frontrunner over his main BJP rival, Mr Y. Laxminarayana. Last time, when the poll percentages in the rest of the segments touched 70 per cent, Nizamabad recorded only 39.5 per cent. The percentage of minorities who voted was just 17. But this time, the poll percentage jumped to 50 and around 32 per cent of minorities went to vote. This may turn things in favour of Mr Srinivas.

In Sirpur seat of Adilabad too, the Congress expects its candidate, Mr A. Indrakaran Reddy, to have good chances of victory. Meanwhile, the TD is confident that its candidate, Mr G. Hanumantha Rao, will scrape through with a slender margin over his TRS rival, Mr Gaddam Aravinda Reddy in Mancherial segment of Adilabad district.

Trends strongly favour the TRS-BJP combine in all the five seats of Karimnagar district, Yellareddy in Nizamabad and Siddipet of Medak district. There was brisk polling in other seats like Warangal West and Chennur where the TRS and Congress candidates were locked in a keen contest.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

State gives Rs 20 for 3 meals a day

A patient at a government hospital has to be fed three meals that should be nutritious and include milk and fruits. All this has to be accomplished within a budget of Rs 20 per day.

Hospital authorities admit the fact that in these times of rising prices, Rs 20 per general patient and Rs 28 for a patient on a high protein diet or a psychiatric patient is grossly inadequate. But before an increase in March 2006, it was a measly Rs 15. Even though costs of food items and fuel have escalated by 60-100 per cent in the last five years, the diet fund has remained the same in all hospitals. “The annual diet budget allocated to our 500-bed hospital is Rs 60 lakh. Quarterly, we are supposed to get Rs 15 lakh. We have received just Rs 11 lakh for the first quarter of this year and funds for the second quarter are yet to be released. It is difficult to give patients a wholesome meal thrice a day with such a paltry amount,” said Dr P. Sudershan Reddy, superintendent, Niloufer Hospital.

The menu in hospitals for breakfast is bread/upma and tea; for lunch, it is 30-40 gm of rice, a curry, sambar/dal and an egg or milk. Dinner consists or rice, dal and curry informed the chief dietician of Gandhi Hospital, Mr M. Narasimha Rao.

Ms Naseema, who had been just discharged from a government hospital, said, “Pata nehi chalta yeh pani hai ki dal... dudh bhi patla rehta. (can’t distinguish dal from water, even the milk is adulterated).” Her brother Md Azmat said, “Since we are from Medak, I couldn’t get homemade food for her.”

It’s not just the inadequacy of funds, the erratic release of funds is another cause of concern. Dr Sampath Kumar, superintendent of OGH said, “The problem lies in the delay in the release of funds.”

“I won’t say the quality and quantity of food given to patients of government hospitals are of a high standard but will label them ‘just okay’,” said one official. “How much can you afford for Rs 20?” he asked.

Mr J. Satyanarayana, principal secretary, health and family Welfare said, “We have already recommended the doubling of the amount — Rs 20 to Rs 40 — for general hospitals and Rs 28 to Rs 56 for mental asylums, but we are not sure when the proposal will be cleared. The release of funds depends on the finance department,” he said.

CM eyes Cabinet reshuffle in August

With the bypoll campaigns out of the way, the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, will now concentrate on the much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle and is likely to visit Delhi to discuss the issue with the party high command in the first week of August.

Mr Rosaiah, who was in Delhi on Monday, had a brief chat with Union law minister and Congress affairs in-charge, Mr Veerappa Moily, in the central hall of Parliament.

Sources said Mr Moily asked Mr Rosaiah about the Cabinet reshuffle proposal and the latter apparently told him that he would be back in August to discuss the issue. The Chief Minister also told Mr Moily that he would have to wait for the outcome of the bypolls in Telangana to complete the reshuffle.

The Chief Minister, who has been monitoring the by-poll situation almost on a day-to-day basis, was hopeful of “some remarkable gains” in favour of the Congress. Though Mr Rosaiah could not participate in the campaign on account of being a non-local, he, however, regularly spoke to leaders and ministers in-charge of the respective segments including arranging financial support for candidates.

The much-talked about and much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle has been postponed a number of times due to unavoidable political exigencies but with municipal elections likely to be delayed beyond September and the bypolls coming to a close, sources indicated that Mr Rosaiah will, this time, definitely go for the reshuffle.

Keeping the by-poll results in mind, which will be known on July 30, the Chief Minister will modify the proposals and then approach the party high command for a favourable nod in August.

PM promises political solution to Babli row

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Monday gave a patient ear to the all-party delegation from Andhra Pradesh which complained about the illegal construction of the Babli project on Godavari by Maharashtra and reportedly promised to find a ‘political solution’.

While the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, said that the Prime Minister was sympathetic, the Telugu Desam, which undertook a massive stir over the issue last week, said his response was unsatisfactory.

Further, the TD president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, ridiculed the Prime Minister by saying that he lacked ‘technical knowledge’ of the issue.

The TD also skipped the consultation meeting called by Mr Rosaiah ahead of the meeting with the Prime Minister.

Emerging from the meeting, Mr Rosaiah struck a positive note by saying the Prime Minister heard out the delegation for nearly 45 minutes.

The Chief Minister said he had told Dr Singh that Maharashtra was resorting to an illegal construction leaving the lower riparian state in a difficult situation.

“The Prime Minister said that it was a delicate issue and that he would consult the technical committee and then find an amicable solution to the imbroglio,” said Mr Rosaiah.

He added that Dr Singh also promised to consider the request for a conference of Chief Ministers.

US intel mega leak exposes Pak games

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harboured strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington to help combat the militants, according to a trove of secret US military field reports made public on Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organisation called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its Inter-Services Intelligence spy service to directly meet the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organise networks of militant groups that fight against US soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that US soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan — cannot be verified and might be from sources linked to Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place. But many of the reports rely on sources that the US military rates as reliable. While current and former US officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said the portrait of the ISI’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the ISI with Al Qaeda is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of US anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by senior US officials looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Al Qaeda havens.

US administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard Nato supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan. Earlier this month, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced $500 million in assistance and called the US and Pakistan “partners joined in common cause.”

The reports suggest, however, that the Pakistani military has acted as both ally and enemy, as its spy agency runs what US officials have long suspected is a double game — appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.

Behind the scenes, both Bush and Obama administration officials as well as top US commanders have confronted top Pakistani military officers with accusations of ISI complicity in attacks in Afghanistan, and even presented top Pakistani officials with lists of ISI and military operatives believed to be working with militants.

Benjamin Rhodes, deputy US national security adviser for strategic communications, said Pakistan had been an important ally in the battle against militant groups, and that Pakistani soldiers and intelligence officials had worked alongside the US to capture or kill Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Still, he said the “status quo is not acceptable,” and that the havens for militants in Pakistan “pose an intolerable threat” that Pakistan must do more to address.

“The Pakistani government — and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services — must continue their strategic shift against violent extremist groups within their borders,” he said. US military support to Pakistan would continue, he said.

Several US congressional officials said despite repeated requests over the years for information about Pakistani support for militant groups, they usually receive vague and inconclusive briefings from the Pentagon and CIA.

Nonetheless, senior US legislators say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the armed services committee, who visited Pakistan this month. He said he and Senator Carl Levin, the committee chairman, had confronted Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani yet again over the allegations.

Such accusations are usually met with angry denials, particularly by the Pakistani military, which insists that the ISI severed its remaining ties to the groups years ago. An ISI spokesman in Islamabad said the agency would have no comment until it saw the documents. Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani said: “The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not reflect the current on-ground realities.”

The man the US has depended on for cooperation in fighting the militants and who holds most power in Pakistan, Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ran the ISI from 2004 to 2007, a period from which many of the reports are drawn.

US officials have described Pakistan’s spy service as a rigidly hierarchical organisation that has little tolerance for “rogue” activity. But Pakistani military officials give the spy service’s “S Wing” — which runs external operations against India and Afghanistan — broad autonomy, a buffer that allows top military officials deniability.

US officials have rarely uncovered definitive evidence of direct ISI involvement in a major attack. But in July 2008, CIA deputy director Stephen R. Kappes confronted Pakistani officials with evidence that the ISI helped plan the deadly suicide bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul.

One report from the current trove identifies an ISI colonel plotting with a Taliban official to assassinate Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The report says there was no information about how or when this would be carried out.

The coordinating general
Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul ran the ISI from 1987 to 1989, a time when Pakistani spies and the CIA joined forces to run guns and money to Afghan militias then battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. After the fighting stopped, he maintained his contacts with the former mujahideen, who would eventually transform themselves into the Taliban.

More than two decades later, it appears Gen. Gul is still at work. The documents indicate he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jaluluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.

Gen. Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.

For example, one intelligence report describes him meeting a group of militants at Wana, capital of South Waziristan, in January 2009. There, he met three senior Afghan insurgent commanders and three “older” Arab men, presumably representatives of Al Qaeda, who the report suggests were important “because they had a large security contingent with them.”

The gathering was designed to hatch a plan to avenge the death of “Zamarai,” the nom de guerre of Osama al-Kini, who had been killed days earlier by a CIA drone attack. Mr Kini had directed Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan and spearheaded some of the group’s most devastating attacks.

The plot hatched at Wana that day, the report says, involved driving a dark blue Mazda truck rigged with explosives from South Waziristan to Afghanistan’s Paktika province, a route well known to be used by the insurgents to move weapons, suicide bombers and fighters from Pakistan.

In a show of strength, the Taliban leaders approved a plan to send 50 Arab and 50 Waziri fighters to Ghazni province in Afghanistan, the report said.

Gen. Gul urged Taliban commanders to focus their operations inside Afghanistan in exchange for Pakistan turning “a blind eye” to their presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It was unclear whether the attack was ever executed.

The US has pushed the United Nations to put Gen. Gul on a list of international terrorists, and top US officials said they believed he was an important link between active-duty Pakistani officers and militant groups.

Gen. Gul, who says he is retired and lives on his pension, dismissed the allegations as “absolute nonsense,” speaking by telephone from his home in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army has its headquarters. “I have had no hand in it.” He added: “American intelligence is pulling cotton wool over your eyes.”

Suicide bomber network
The reports also chronicle efforts by ISI officers to run the networks of suicide bombers that emerged as a sudden, terrible force in Afghanistan in 2006.

The detailed reports indicate that US officials had a relatively clear understanding of how the suicide networks presumably functioned, even if some of the threats did not materialise. It is impossible to know why the attacks never came off — either they were thwarted, the attackers shifted targets, or the reports were deliberately planted as Taliban disinformation.

One report, from December 18, 2006, describes a cyclical process to develop the suicide bombers. First, the suicide attacker is recruited and trained in Pakistan. Then, reconnaissance and operational planning gets under way, including scouting to find a place for “hosting” the suicide bomber near the target before carrying out the attack.

In many cases, the reports are complete with names and ages of bombers, as well as licence plate numbers, but the Americans gathering the intelligence struggle to accurately portray many other details, introducing sometimes comical renderings of places and Taliban commanders.

In one case, a report rated by the American military as credible states that a grey Toyota Corolla had been loaded with explosives between the Afghan border and Landik Hotel, in Pakistan, apparently a mangled reference to Landi Kotal, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The target of the plot, however, is a real hotel in downtown Kabul, the Ariana.

Several of the reports describe current and former ISI operatives, including Gen. Gul, visiting madrasas near Peshawar to recruit new fodder for suicide bombings.

One report, labelled a “real threat warning” because of its detail and the reliability of its source, described how commanders of Mr Hekmatyar’s insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, ordered the delivery of a suicide bomber from the Hashimiye madrasa, run by Afghans.

The boy was to be used in an attack on American or Nato vehicles in Kabul during a Muslim festival. The report says the boy was taken to Jalalabad to buy a car for the bombing, and later brought to Kabul. It is unclear if the attack actually took place.

Some bombers were sent to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential elections held last August. In other instances, US intelligence learned that the Haqqani network sent bombers at the ISI’s behest to strike at Indian officials, development workers and engineers in Afghanistan. Other plots were aimed at the Afghan government.

Sometimes the intelligence documents twin seemingly credible detail with plots that seem fantastical or utterly implausible assertions. For instance, one report describes an ISI plan to use a remote-controlled bomb disguised as a golden Quran to assassinate Afghan officials. Another report documents an alleged plot by the ISI and Taliban to ship poisoned alcoholic beverages to Afghanistan to kill American troops.

Money attached to T-voters slips

Throwing all rules to the winds and subverting the model code of conduct, a prominent political party distributed copious amounts of cash among poor voters to ‘buy’ their mandate in the bypolls scheduled for Tuesday.

Slum-dwellers who came home after their day’s work were thrilled to find a Rs 1,000 note attached to the voter slips dropped through their doors and windows.

The constituency is witnessing a prestigious battle between the APCC president, Mr D. Srinivas, the BJP’s Mr E. Lakshm-inarayana and the Telugu Desam candidate, Mr Narsa Reddy.

Interestingly, none of the political parties have bothered to complain about the cash gifts given by their rivals since they don’t want to earn the ire of poverty-stricken voters who are happy at the windfall.

Not only that, heavy betting worth lakhs of rupees is also on among bookies on who will be the winner, with most plumping in favour of Mr Srinivas. Betting is also on in Mancherial and Sirpur constituencies.

The ‘free cash gift’ is the animated topic of discussion in every locality, roadside tea stalls, hotels and offices on election eve.

Some poor families have used the cash to clear their petty debts while others made essential purchases. Free liquor has also reached most ‘eligible’ voters.

“They have distributed Rs 1,000 per household along with voters slip,” said Mr Ramulu, a labourer with family of six, while talking to this correspondent.

Distribution of cash and liquor is unabated despite ‘strict’ police supervision in the entire town. In fact, there have even been complaints about ‘bias’ in the distribution of cash with some ‘beneficiaries’ saying that it was not fair to give Rs 1,000 to a family of two as well as a family of six.

It is learnt that leaders had also paid each self-help group Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 depending on their strength and had also gifted amounts ranging up to Rs 5 lakh to caste organisations. In some areas, SHGs got up to Rs 20,000

Mr Sattaiah, who lives in a weaker section colony, was heard complaining to a party leader that 150 households had been missed in cash distribution. “They are our pucca voters and we will lose them if you don’t provide cash,” he warned openly.

The cash distribution has been done carefully through trusted local leaders and family members. Different brands of liquor were sent to caste organisations, youth clubs and trade unions.

“Our youth club got Rs 20,000 from a candidate,” said Mr Narasimlu, a resident of Ambedkar Colony. “We distributed the amount to all the members proportionately.”

Those members of the youth club who took part in the campaign got Rs 200 per day, apart from biriyani and beer. “We have never enjoyed such luxury,” he said.

Ms Sulochana, a housewife of Kotagally, said that her family earned good money in the run-up to the polls. “My husband and son took part in the campaign,” she said. “Such bypolls will give us some relief from financial difficulties.”

She also added a rider, “But money will not have any impact on our vote. We will vote as we wish.” So the voter does have the last word.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SSC results to be out at 3 pm today

The SSC advanced supplementary examination results will be declared at 3 pm on Monday. The exams which were conducted from June 24 to July 7.

The results will be available on the following websites:,,,,,,,,,, Students have to type their roll number and their results would be displayed. To view the results via SMS, send the following message to 56263: ResultSSChall ticket number to 56263 or SMS APXShall ticket number to 56767999.

1 person dies in rain-soaked state

Heavy rains battered parts of the state and officials started evacuating people from a few low lying areas on Sunday as sources said that the state has received 25 per cent more rainfall this year than the previous season.

One person was washed away in an overflowing rivulet in Warangal due to the rains.

Hyderabad also received continuous rainfall as flight schedules went for a toss at the Shamshabad Airport and many domestic and international flights were delayed.

Met officials have warned of isolated heavy rain over coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over the next 48 hours due to a depression over the Orissa coast of Bay of Bengal. The Vams-adhara and Nagavali Rivers were in spate and officials started evacuating people from low lying areas of Srikakulam district.

The Prakasam barrage has been getting heavy inflows and officials have lifted 64 gates as a precautionary measure. About 45,000 cusecs of flood waters have been released from the barrage.

Officials also lifted 22 gates of the Gotta barrage on Vamsadhara and released 40,000 cusecs.

Naidu takes Babli to Delhi

Ahead of the all-party delegation meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the Babli project, the TD president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, is meeting national leaders to take up cudgels against the Maharashtra government.

Mr Naidu highlighted the treatment meted out to him by the Maharashtra government and questioned the silence and indifference of the Centre to the issue in his meetings with leaders of other parties.

Mr Naidu demanded a national debate on the issue of sharing river waters between states. He said the lower riparian states were completely at the mercy of the upper riparian states which were taking advantage of their location.Mr Naidu also slammed the Rosaiah government for being “weak”. He questioned the intention of the Centre in dealing with what he called violation of the Supreme Court order by the Maharashtra government.

Mr Naidu said the Centre has the right to intervene in a conflict between two states. He cited the example of the Cauvery dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka that was mediated by the Centre during the tenure of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Mr Naidu emphasised that it would be easy for the Centre to resolve this row over Babli as both the states and the Centre are being governed by the Congress.

Mr Naidu said the Maharashtra government had violated the agreement between the two Chief Ministers, the Supreme Court (interim) order which had restrained Maharashtra from installing gates in the barrage and the Central Water Commission order asking Maharashtra to maintain status quo until the technical committee submitted its report.

Quoting from the Constitution, Mr Naidu that anybody can visit any part of the country but he was forcibly prevented by Maharashtra from visiting the Babli project site.

Trisha to star with Prateik

While Gautam Menon’s Khakha Khakha is all set to be remade by some other director, Gautam himself is all set to remake his Tamil film Vinaaithandi Varuvaaya in Hindi and has signed Khatta Meetha fame actress Trisha in the lead role. Prateik will be playing the male lead.

Our source said, “Gautam has wanted to make a Hindi film for a long time now. After he made Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein nothing has worked out for him. He was to remake Khakha Khakha in Hindi but it didn’t work out and Nishikant Kamath is directing it now for Vipul Shah. So, Gautam is now making the Hindi version of his own Tamil film Vinaaithandi Varuvaaya and has signed Trisha and Prateik for the lead roles. Incidentally Trisha has just made her debut in Bollywood with Khatta Meetha and this will be her second film. She was also a part of the original Tamil version.”

Didi, Raja,Pawar in House fire

The price rise issue has brought the BJP, Left and regional parties together, but not the Mandalites, on the eve of Parliament’s Monsoon Session beginning on Monday.

Senior UPA ministers, Mr Sharad Pawar, Ms Mamata Banerjee and Mr A. Raja are also expected to be on the Opposition’s “hit list” in this session. Some Congress ministers, particularly Mr S.M. Krishna and Mr P. Chidambaram, are also likely to be the targets of Opposition attacks on issues ranging from the talks with Pakistan to Naxalism and internal security. The government’s strategy to trying to isolate the BJP following the Amit Shah issue may not succeed as the Opposition parties are likely to treat the price rise and Maoist attacks seriously.

Underage by 6 days, girl loses MBBS

Chandu Revathi, daughter of Ch. Janar-dhana Chandra Sekhar, who ranked 40th in Eamcet was denied admission in MBBS as she was underage by just six days.
While all seats under the open category in government medical colleges got filled up on Day-1 of the Eamcet medical counselling on Sunday, the girl could not qualify as according to Medical Council of India norms, any candidate taking admission should be 17.

T-bypoll campaign ends on a hic note

The electorate of four Assembly segments of Karimnagar guzzled liquor almost worth a crore every day during the 22 days of campaigning for the bypolls. As canvassing in the 12 Assembly constituencies in Telangana came to an end on Sunday the sales figure of booze in Karimnagar district alone stood at Rs 21,42,58,125 during campaigning.

In other districts going to polls, Warangal earned a revenue of Rs 8.20 crore while Medak registered sales of Rs 7.89 crore, officiails pegging the rise in revenues to bypolls. In Adilabad, it was Rs 11 crore. Though no final figures were available, Nizamabad may beat Karimnagar in record sales. Officials also pegged the rise in sales to the bypolls.

The Hujarabad constituency of Karimnagar, which falls on the other side of the district, was somewhat moderate in their consumption and Karimnagar city, which is not going in for polls, could not match the Jagityal division under which the four Assembly segments fall.

The Dharmapuri, Metpalli (now Korutla), Vemulawada, Siricilla and Ellereddy Assembly segments recorded the highest liquor consumption over the last fortnight. “We have no other option but to provide liquor every day. Otherwise, no worker comes to us. Apart from Rs 250, male and female workers were provided at least Rs 50 every day only for liquor,” said a candidate contesting from Korutla constituency. The candidates spent no less than Rs 1 lakh every day only on alcohol.

Since the police imposed a ban on liquor sale from 5 pm on Sunday to 5 pm Tuesday, insiders said political parties purchased huge quantities from wine shops and stored in “safe” places to distribute over Monday and Tuesday.

Normally, alcohol sales in these Assembly constituencies are less than half of what has been consumed over the last fortnight. Last year, between July 1 and 25, the sale of liquor in the four Assembly constituencies was Rs 10,81,86,065.

Excise officials informed that Jagityal topped the list followed by Metpalli and Siricilla. In the last 20 days, people in Jagityal consumed liquor worth Rs 5.65 crore against last year’s Rs 3.60 crore, Metpalli consumed Rs 5.16 crore against Rs 2.10 crore last year and Siricilla Rs 4.42 crore against Rs1.93 crore. The famous pilgrimage, Vemulawada, also figured in the race with liquor sales jumping more than 100 per cent at Rs 2.37 crore against Rs 1.10 crore last year.

“We got bulk orders on the last day. The business volume would be around Rs 1.5 crore on Sunday,” said a Wine Dealers’ Association office bearer.

Which political party spent most on the liquor? The association’s choice is the Congress, which according to them, had more cadres canvassing and also ensured their well being, followed by the Telugu Desam and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

The police, meanwhile, clamped restrictions on meetings and on movements of groups prior to the polls on July 27 in Karimnagar district and ministers who were deputed for election campaigns have left for Hyderabad.

The TRS chief Mr K. Chandrasekar Rao, however, decided to stay on in Karimnagar to fine-tune his party strategy. The TRS MP, Ms Vijayashanti, the Telangana ideologue Prof. Jayasankar and other leaders are also camped in Karimnagar district as five important segments are going in for polls.

Friday, July 23, 2010

13 kids hurt in Mexico church collapse

At least 13 children and an adult were injured when a church near a Mexican port town collapsed, authorities said.

The church building, located about 10 km from Ensenada, came down when the children were on the second floor. The kids suffered mostly broken ribs in the incident, they said.

At the time of the collapse, several US citizens, who come from the neighbouring California state to perform social services, were also present. However, no injuries were reported among the visiting foreigners.

Modi aide skips CBI summons

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s closest aide, state minister for home, Mr Amit Shah, failed to present himself before the CBI for questioning.

He, however, issued an emotional statement saying he would present himself and clear suspicions about his role in the controversial Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. CBI investigating officer Amitabh Thakur had summoned Mr Amit Shah at 1 pm Thursday.

A second summons was issued Thursday evening. Mr Shah responded through a press statement saying he was loyal to the Constitution and would appear before the CBI on Friday.

“A second summons has been issued to me for tomorrow. I will make myself available and answer all questions,” Mr Shah said in a statement from an undisclosed location. He said it was important for him to explain to the people of Gujarat how this was now becoming a “political encounter” because of the “power-hungry UPA government”.

Amit Shah, a senior BJP leader, was minister of state for home affairs when the encounter took place. The CBI had the option of considering declaring Mr Shah an absconder and arresting him if he ignored the summons. Mr Shah said he had no role in the encounter and that his name in his capacity as MoS, home, has “not come on record anywhere”, but the CBI was still working overtime to nail him. He said he was away from the Gujarat capital on “personal work” when the CBI sent the summons to his home.

Sena tries to storm Salura

In a tit-for-tat response to the Telugu Desam stir on the Babli project, Shiv Sena activists along with pro-Babli agitators from Maharashtra tried to storm the Salura minor lift irrigation project at Salura village in the sugar-rich Bodhan mandal of Nizamabad district, on Thursday, threatening to demolish it.

However, in a swift move, the Maharashtra police blocked and took into custody the 100-odd slogan shouting activists at the entrance of a bridge leading to AP territory, about 10 km away from Bodhan and 45 km from Nizamabad. On their part, the AP police in Nizamabad put up barricades at the border villages to prevent the Sena activists from crossing over.

Tension prevailed on the AP-Maharashtra border with 2,000 villagers from Salura, some armed with sticks, reaching the bridge to take on the Sena men. With angry slogans, restive crowds and scores of cops, the area looked like a battlefield. The dispute between Maharashtra and AP over the location of the Rs 3.82-crore project across Man-jeera River had been settled earlier after a study by the Survey of India showed that it was within AP, but the Sena has made it clear it is going to resurrect the row.

Reacting to the provocative march by the Sena, the AP government asserted that the Salura project was very much within the state’s territory while the ruling Congress blamed the TD chief, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, for creating unnecessary animosity through his stir. “The padayatra to Salura is a reaction to Mr Naidu’s attempts to visit Babli project,” said the minor irrigation minister Ms Sunitha Lakshmareddy.

Pakistan must act against Mumbai attackers: US

The United States has listed investigation and bringing to justice those responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack among the must do things for Pakistan in the fight against terror.

"There are things, clearly, that Pakistan must do," the state department spokesman, Mr Phillip Crowley, told reporters on Thursday when asked if recent statements by US officials that Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) is as dangerous as Al Qaeda reflected a new get tough with Pakistan policy.

"And certainly, continuing to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for the Mumbai attack is an important element," he said. "It's important to Pakistan. It's also important to India."

"And we will continue our conversations with Pakistan on the things that it needs to do not only for the benefit of Pakistan but the region as a whole," Mr Crowley said.

But he suggested that statements equating the threats from LeT, blamed for the 26/11 attacks, and Al Qaeda and another Mumbai attack could provoke a war in the region, did not reflect a change in US policy to make Pakistan act against these terror groups.

"We have a US policy," he said. "It is to fully cooperate with Pakistan on terrorism and to continue to work closely to help Pakistan battle the insurgency that now is a threat to Pakistan itself."

"We've seen significant progress by Pakistan over the past year," Mr Crowley said noting, "It's an area that was a part of the Strategic Dialogue that our governments just had in Islamabad."

"We'll continue to work on this," Crowley said.

He said the sanctions imposed on Friday by the treasury department against three key leaders and financiers of the Haqqani network were not in lieu of state department action against the Pakistan-based group.

"No, it's not in lieu of that," Mr Crowley said. The US, he said, was looking at whether to designate the group as a foreign terrorist organisation as mentioned by the secretary of state, Ms Hillary Clinton, on her trip to Pakistan this week.

"And that is a lengthy process and we're looking to see if it meets the legal criteria that's outlined in US law."

The new top US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, and the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin have both urged putting the Haqqani network on State Department's the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Naidu blames Sonia for chaos

The Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, on Wednesday said his party would continue to fight against the illegal Babli structure till justice is done.

Mr Naidu said, “I don’t know what instructions the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, gave to the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Chavan, but the police beat us only after she talked to him. Without her instructions the Maharashtra police would not have had the courage to beat us up?’’

He accused the Congress governments at the Centre and state for the injustice meted out to Telangana by allowing construction across the Godavari obstructing flow of into AP.

Mr Naidu said, “Do we require a visa to visit Maharashtra? Are we not in India? Don’t we have freedom to visit places in other states?’’

Fuming at Rosaiah government’s inaction, Mr Naidu said, “Maharashtra did not begin works on Babli project as long as TD was in power. Babli would not have been completed had TD been in power. Congress has to pay the price for the injustice.”

Mr Naidu alleged that the Chief Minister was only worried about saving his job and settling scores with rivals. “Mr Rosaiah is just not worried about our lives and the Babli project,” said Mr Naidu.

Rosaiah ridicules Naidu

The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, while condemning the harsh treatment meted out by Maharashtra police to TD MLAs, gently ridiculed the TD chief, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, by pointing out that Babli and Almatti projects were initiated during Mr Naidu’s tenure way back in 1995, but he seemed to have woken up from slumber in 2010.

The Chief Minister also said Mr Naidu launched the agitation with an eye on the bypolls, and remarked that the TD chief perhaps wanted to stay back in Maharashtra to avoid campaigning for the party candidates in Telangana.

Mr Rosaiah expressed unhappiness at the union water resources minister, Mr P.K. Bansal, suggesting that chief ministers of both states should sit and sort out the controversy and said the Centre had to play a role in a federal set up.

“If we can sit and agree, what is the need for him (Mr Bansal)?” asked the Chief Minister. Meanwhile, the TD agitation has heightened interest in the next hearing of the Babli case in the Supreme Court on August 10.

In 2007, the SC had permitted Maharashtra to go ahead with the construction of the 65 TMC capacity barrage on the Godavari river but with a condition that the state authorities would not install any of the 13 proposed gates in the dam for releasing water till further orders.

Andhra Pradesh had filed a suit against Maharashtra saying that the construction would adversely affect the people of entire Telangana region. It also argued that the construction was against the 1980 Godavari Water Tribunal award.

However, lawyers of both sides do not expect any substantial turnaround in the next hearing unless a new application is filed.

Chiru lobbies for office at prime site

The Praja Rajyam chief, Mr K. Chiranjeevi, has stepped up his lobbying with the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, for land in a prime area of the city to construct a party office.

The PR chief wants government land either in Jubilee Hills or Film Nagar where the rates are exorbitantly high. Sources told this newspaper that Mr Chiranjeevi recently wrote a letter to the Chief Minister requesting him to expedite the process of allotment of one acre of land.

Though PR leaders claimed that the request was made to the government when Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was at the helm of affairs, inquiries revealed that the efforts gained momentum only after the change of guard and the close relations between the PR and Congress after the Rajya Sabha polls.

Sources said the government told Mr Chiranjeevi to identify three or four pieces of land, but district revenue officials objected to some of the plots chosen and hence the delay.

“We have not received the proposals from the district collector so far. We will place the proposal before the cabinet after receiving the proposal," a senior Revenue official said.

While the taxpayer may wonder why government land should be allotted for such a purpose, it is apparently a common practice. Successive governments have allotted lands to all the major parties — the BJP, TRS and Congress — to construct party offices.

The BJP and TRS have already built their offices, while the Congress plot at Bhimraowada is under litigation, with the High Court quashing the allotment.

24,000 Eamcet rankers fail Inter

As many as 24,000 students who qualified in Eamcet this year have become ineligible for admission into engineering and medical courses after they failed in Intermediate exams (plus two).

The 25 per cent weight given for Intermediate marks to determine ranks in Eamcet also changed the prospects of several toppers. Some of them slid down the rank list while others went missing from the Top 10 chart when JNTU-Hyderabad on Wednesday released Eamcet ranks.

However, Mohammed Gouse Jani, son of an auto driver in Vizag, who created a sensation by securing 159 out of 160 in Eamcet engineering stream retained his “state topper” status even after the Intermediate marks were given their due weight.

A student of Narayana Group, Gouse Jani secured “state first rank” by scoring 100 per cent marks in Maths, Physics and Chemistry in Intermediate.

Ravinuthala Lalitha, a student of Sri Chaitanya, secured “state first rank” in medical stream.

While students from Narayana Group secured nine out of top10 ranks in engineering stream and three out of the top 10 in medical stream, students from Sri Chaitanya Group secured six ranks out of the top 10 in medical stream and one rank in engineering stream.

In engineering stream, the Narayana students who figured in the top 10 include Mohammed Gouse Jani (first rank), Boyapati Pallavi (third), Satyavolu Sai Nitish (fourth), Yangala Lakshmipathi (fifth), B.Sai Krishna (sixth), Koneru Kiran Babu (seventh), Malde Nishit Ketan (eighth), Ayesha Yasmeen (ninth) and Buddi Ramchandran (tenth rank).

Likewise, in the medical stream, Narayana students Challa Madhuri got fifth rank, Dushyant Ramkrishnan seventh rank and K. Amulya Reddy ninth rank.

Of the 10 toppers in the medical stream, six were from Sri Chaitanya Group. While Ravinuthala Lalitha got first rank, Narapaneni Kiranmayee came second, M. Rahul third, Sri Lakshmi Thota fourth, Muddala Durga Prasad sixth, V. Sai Kiran eighth and Syed Khalid Hashmi tenth.

A. Janardhan Reddy, a student of Sri Chaitanya, secured second rank in engineering stream. However, he took admission in IIT-Madras recently as he secured seventh rank in the OC category in IITJEE this year.

Of the failed candidates, 20,031 students had qualified in Eamcet engineering stream and 3,066 in medical stream. Apart from this, another 896 students who qualified in engineering stream and 452 students who qualified in medical stream have not submitted their mark memos to Eamcet officials resulting in non-allotment of ranks.

The 25 per cent weight has also reshuffled the top 10 ranks. In engineering stream, Boyapati Pallavi, who stood at the top along with Gouse Jani by securing 159 marks, got third rank.

A. Janardhan Reddy went up to second rank from third rank while Satyavolu Sai Nitish retained his fourth position. Koneru Kiran Babu went down from fifth to seventh place and Yangala Lakshmi Pathi improved his position from sixth to fifth place. B. Sai Krishna went up to sixth place from seventh. Buddi Ramcharan’s place came down to tenth from eight.

Sridhar Kandimalla and M.V.S. Raghavendra who stood at ninth and tenth places respectively earlier failed to make it to the Top 10 list. Their places were occupied by Malde Nishit Ketan (eighth rank) and Ayesha Yasmeen (ninth rank).

In medical stream, M. Rahul, who stood at first place earlier, went down to third rank. Ravinuthala Lalitha jumped from second to first place and Narapaneni Kiranmayee improved her position from third to second.

Sri Lakshmi Atthota retained her fourth position while V. Saikiran came down to eighth place from fifth. Muddala Durga Prasad retained his sixth position and Challa Madhuri improved her place from seventh to fifth while Dushyant Ramakrishnan jumped from eighth to seventh.

At the same time, Jakkala Sri Lakshmi Durga Tejaswani and Pilla Rakesh who stood at eighth and ninth place earlier failed to make it to the Top 10 list. They were replaced by A. Amulya Reddy (ninth rank) and Syed Khalid Hashmi (10th rank).

Krishna blames Pillai for Pak face-off

A spat between two UPA heavyweights, the external affairs minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, and the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, threatens to hijack the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s Pakistan initiative.

Mr Krishna on Wednesday locked horns with the home ministry over the handling of the recently concluded India-Pakistan foreign ministers’ talks.

A day after the national security adviser, Mr Shivshankar Menon, reiterated the home secretary, Mr G.K. Pillai’s remarks on the Headley-ISI link, Mr Krishna hit back by saying Mr Pillai’s remarks on the eve of the Islamabad talks were “very unfortunate”. He felt Mr Pillai’s remarks presented the Pakistani side with an excuse to wriggle out of the talks. “Mr Pillai could have waited till I came back to issue a statement. Perhaps it would have been wiser if that statement had not been made just on the eve of my visit,” Mr Krishna said here in interviews to PTI and a TV channel.

“Everyone who was privy to whatever was happening in government of India ought to have known that the right kind of atmosphere from India’s side should have been created for the talks to go on in a very normal manner, but unfortunately this episode happened,” he elaborated.

The minister said he had discussed Mr Pillai’s comments with the PM, whom he had briefed upon his return from Islamabad last week. He said he was glad that the home ministry had since announced the appointment of a spokesperson. In recent months, Mr Pillai had been briefing the media but on Tuesday the ministry appointed additional secretary (Naxal management) D.R.S. Choudhry “official spokesperson”.

Speculation is rife that the gag order was put on Mr Pillai under instruction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). However, PMO sources refused to speak on the issue. The PMO is understood to have sought an explanation from Mr Pillai on the day his remarks were published in an English daily. That was also the day the Krishna-Qureshi talks were being held in Islamabad.

Mr Krishna criticised the Pakistan minister’s abrasive style in his interaction with the media. "I think we can put forward any contention that a country can face in a most forceful way but there has to be dignity, there has to be civility, and civility is certainly no weakness," he asserted.However, Mr Krishna said he was "quite satisfied" with his Pakistan visit as it was a confidence-building exercise and "to that extent, we have succeeded".

Responding to a question on the BJP’s stand that India should not talk to Pakistan now, he said he had briefed the BJP leaders before his visit to Islamabad and conveyed the desirability of engaging Pakistan. "There is no alternative. If somebody can come out with an alternative, I can consider that," Mr Krishna noted.

On Tuesday, Mr Brajesh Mishra, a former national security adviser in the erstwhile BJP-led NDA government, had said the UPA government had made a "serious mistake" by talking to Pakistan and that the recently concluded talks were "bound to fail" as there were elements in India and Pakistan who were not particularly happy with the way the
talks had been arranged.

US on Headley issue: Expect India to fulfil responsibility

With Indian officials going public with what LeT operative David Headley had told investigators, the US on Thursday said it fully expects "both countries to live up to their respective responsibilities".

Amid reports that the Obama administration was upset over Indian officials going into the details provided by Headley, the state department spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley, said the US values cooperation with India on combating terrorism but it places responsibility on both countries.

"We fully expect both countries to live up to their respective responsibilities," Mr Crowley told reporters at his daily news conference.

Mr Crowley was responding to a question about an Indian media report that stated that the US is upset about the statements coming out from senior Indian officials, revealing details of information the Mumbai terror suspect provided to Indian interrogators recently.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

15 years on, Bobby Deol finds 'no guarantee' for hits

For the first time in his 15-year-old career, Bobby Deol of the romance and action movies has attempted to do a supernatural thriller -- a not-so-popular genre. But the actor is taking his chances, saying there is “no guarantee what will work and what won’t”.

“It’s not only horror films that didn’t work this year. There are many others that didn’t either. There is no guarantee what will work and what won’t,” Bobby, the younger son of Bollywood veteran Dharmendra, told IANS.

“Every Friday when your film is about to release, you are scared, you don’t want to be around because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Bobby’s ghost film is titled “Help” and it has been directed by debutant Rajeev Viran who narrates the story of a malevolent spirit that refuses to leave the human world. While the actor will be seen as a successful horror film director in the movie, Mugdha Godse will feature as his wife.

The film is slated to hit the screens Aug 13.

This year saw a number of horror films hitting the big screen like “Click”, starring Shreyas Talpade and Sneha Ullal; Ram Gopal Varma’s “Phoonk 2“; Aditya Narayan-starrer “Shaapit“; Purab Kohli and Arjan Bajwa’s “Hide & Seek“; and “Rokkk” that had Udita Goswami and Tanushree Dutta. But they all scared the audiences away.

In real life, Bobby doesn’t believe in evil spirits. “As an adult I don’t believe in spirits and ghosts, but as a child such stories used to interest me and even scare me sometimes,” said the 43-year-old.

“When I was a little kid, my cousin used to tell me ghost stories. Even when my maids used to talk about such stuff, I used to get interested and would force them to make me a part of their conversation. Sometimes though they scared me.”

Usually seen in romantic and action movies, Bobby agreed to do “Help” because he felt it was time to experiment with a different genre.

“When I heard the subject, it sounded interesting; so I decided to give it a shot. End of the day, as an actor you want to experience different things. I have done this for the first time; now let’s see how it fares,” he said.

So wasn’t he sceptical about working with an actress who is relatively new in the industry?

“No, not at all. I’m not one of those people. In fact, most of my films are with heroines who are relatively new in the industry. What is important is that the person suits the character and Mugdha was perfect for this role,” he informed.

Horror is not the only thing on Bobby’s plate at the moment. The actor, who made his debut with 1995 film “Barsaat”, is working on two more films -- “Yamla Pagla Deewana” and “Thank You”.

While “Yamla Pagla Deewana” will see him reuniting on screen with his father Dharmendra and elder brother Sunny, in “Thank You” he will be seen with Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar.

Microsoft to launch hands-free Kinect console in November

Four years after Nintendo revolutionized video-games with its motion-sensing Wii console, Microsoft said Tuesday that it will launch its own hands-free gadget, the Kinect, on November 4, priced at 150 dollars.

The Kinect must be used with an existing Xbox 360 console, bringing the combined system to some 300 dollars, about 100 dollars more than the Wii.

The Microsoft system will offer better graphics and a host of exclusive games, as well as an ability to sense hand and body motions without the need for players to hold any controllers, as they must with the Wii.

The Kinect sensor will come bundled with a family game called Kinect Adventures and could become a hit holiday gift, especially for the approximately 40 million existing Xbox 360 console owners.

Meanwhile, Sony is planning to launch a motion-controlled feature for its PS3 gaming system. The Japanese electronics giant will release the Move on September 15.

Terrorists from AfPak border killing our people: Obama

President Barack Obama said that terrorists trained “in Afghanistan and the tribal regions along the Pakistani border” were responsible for killing innocent civilians in the United States and the United Kingdom. He added that with the support he continued receive from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron he would prevent “an even wider insurgency in Afghanistan [that] would mean an even larger safe haven for the al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates to plan their next attack.”

Speaking at a joint press conference at the White House with Mr. Cameron, Mr. Obama said that although the fight in Afghanistan was not easy, it was “a necessary one.” However he expressed confidence that they had the right strategy, arguing, “We’re going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We’re going to build Afghan capacity so Afghans can take responsibility for their future. And we’re going to deepen regional cooperation, including with Pakistan.”

Mr. Cameron echoed the President’s sentiment on Afghanistan, arguing that “there is no clearer, no more tangible illustration of Britain and America standing shoulder to shoulder in our national interest than this mission that we are engaged in together.” Illustrating the division of responsibility between the two nations he add, that British troops were working to an American commander in Helmand and American troops working to a British commander in Kandahar.

Both leaders hailed the ongoing Kabul Conference as “historic” and “another major step forward,” adding that the Afghan government had concrete plans to implement President Karzai’s commitments to improve security, economic growth, governance, and the delivery of basic services.

Mr. Obama further affirmed that “the U.S. firmly supports,” the Afghan government’s peace and reconciliation plan and also lavished praise on the recently inked Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Agreement which would “increase economic opportunity for people on both sides of the border.”

On the wider question of drawing down U.S. and U.K. troops in Afghanistan, the President said “Over the coming year, Afghans will begin to take the lead in security, and in July of next year... we will begin the transfer some of our forces out of Afghanistan.

Mr. Cameron also underscored the importance of a political strategy for Afghanistan given that “Insurgencies tend not to be defeated by military means alone.” In a reference to U.K. support for Afghan plan for reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban and other groups, he said, “To those people currently fighting, if they give up violence, if they cut themselves off from al-Qaeda, if they accept the basic tenets of the Afghan constitution, they can have a future in a peaceful Afghanistan.”

Fedrigo denies Lance stage win

Lance Armstrong lost a sprint finish and watched his chances of a glorious stage win in his final Tour de France slip away on Tuesday. He came in sixth in a sprint that was won by Pierrick Fedrigo of France, ahead of his compatriot Sandy Casar and Ruben Plaza of Spain.

Armstrong had joined the first break of the day and remained ahead of the peloton for the entire length of the 16th stage — the toughest in this year’s Tour — that included four major climbs including that of the famed Col du Tourmalet.

It was the third successive French victory in this year's race and the sixth in total.

There was no change in the overall standings in the race. Yellow jersey holder Alberto Contador of Spain crossed the line in the peloton along with his closest challenger, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, after Contador's strong Astana team packed the front of the peloton on the climb up the Col d’Aubisque and prevented Schleck from attacking. Schleck had been furious with Contador after Monday’s stage because he felt the Spaniard should have waited when Schleck suffered a mechanical problem during the main climb of the day.

Contador surged ahead and took the yellow jersey at the end of the stage.

Contador later apologised, and on Tuesday the two came together on the stage of the French broadcaster and shook hands.

Wednesday is a rest day in the Tour, but on Thursday the racers will turn around and ride the Pyrenees in the other direction, ending on the top of the Col du Tourmalet.

MPs’ salary hike tops House agenda

A bill seeking to increase the salary and allowances of members of Parliament is on the top priority list of the government in the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning Monday at a time when price hike is pinching the common man.

The government might have failed to contain sky rocketing all round price rise but it wants to keep MPs in good humour by increasing their salary and allowances with a calculation that this will ensure its stability.
A draft bill is being prepared for the hike in salaries of MPs after a joint committee recommended that the monthly salary of MPs be hiked from Rs 16,000 to Rs 80,001, a rupee more than a secretary to the Union government.
The last hike in salaries and allowances of 795 MPs — 545 of the Lok Sabha and 250 of the Rajya Sabha — was effected some 10 years back. The Sixth Pay Commission for government servants came into effect from January 2006.
The committee, headed by Charan Das Mahant (Congress), has recommended raising the daily allowance from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 when Parliament is in session. Office expense allowances are also recommended to be increased substantially as well as the constituency allowance.
Meanwhile, the controversial civil nuclear liability bill and judicial standards and accountability bill are prominent among other measures listed in the priority agenda but suspense continued over the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been approved by the Rajya Sabha.
The Communal Violence Bill, which is currently being deliberated by Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), is also one of the priority items. Similar is the case of the bill seeking to raise the reservation for women in urban local bodies from 33 to 50 per cent. Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Tuesday held a meeting of secretaries of various ministries and departments to decide on the government business for the month-long session which concludes on August 27.
Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which seeks to provide severest punishment for offences of hijacking, and the Chemical Weapon Convention (Amendment) Bill, are among other priority bills likely to come up in this session.
In all, around 110 bills are pending in either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha and the Women’s Reservation Bill has not found a place in the priority list.
A parliamentary committee is currently examining the nuclear liability bill which had witnessed stiff opposition from the Left as also the BJP at the introduction stage itself on the last day of the Budget Session.

JNTU for higher Eamcet qualifying mark

The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University-Hyderabad (JNTU-H), which conducts the Eamcet, has recommended to the State Council for Higher Education that students appearing for the Intermediate supplementary exams not be considered for engineering seats. Waiting for these results only adds to the delay in announcing Eamcet results.

“We were supposed to announce the Eamcet results two months ago. But since weightage is being given to the Intermediate marks, we had to wait for two months. We have to wait for the Intermediate results and then the re-evaluation results, the supplementary results and its re-evaluation as well.

“We strongly recommend that we go ahead with the announcement of the Eamcet results after the Intermediate results are announced without considering the supplementary results,” Prof D.N. Reddy, vice-chancellor, JNTU-Hyderabad, told this correspondent.

“As it is we have to wait for the results of the CBSE, ICSE, other state boards, and vocational courses to give weightage. If we wait further, Eamcet counselling will be delayed,” he added.

The university also proposed an increase in the qualifying mark for general category students from 25 to 40 per cent.

“We feel 25 per cent as the qualifying mark depletes the quality of students pursuing engineering and have asked the State Council for Higher Education to enhance the qualifying mark to 40 per cent in Eamcet for general category students and 25 per cent for students from SC/ ST reservations,” Prof Reddy said.

The State Council for Higher Education is yet to take a decision on the recommendations of the university.

Fire erupts at Naval warehouse

A warehouse in the Naval victualling yard in Visakhapatnam caught fire early on Tuesday, sources said.

The fire could not be controlled for two hours.

Firefighters of the Navy and Marripalem station extinguished it by 5.50 am.

No one was injured in the incident. The warehouse situated in Asoka Nagar was being used to store clothing and material to be supplied to various Naval canteens. The fire gutted almost everything in it, sources said.

People living nearby ran out of their houses and returned only when the fire was doused.

Naval authorities said a board has been constituted to inquire into the circumstances that led to the incident. Sources, however, disclosed that the fire was apparently caused by a short-circuit.

Deadlock over medical fee hike

Angered by the “meagre” fee hike allowed by the state government, medical and dental colleges in the state have threatened not to admit students this year.

The government on Tuesday issued orders increasing the fees for MBBS and BDS courses by 10 per cent this year much to the disappointment of college managements which had sought a hike of 40 per cent.

“We will not give admissions for students this year with the present fee structure,” said Mr Puvvada Ajay Kumar, president of the Association of Private Medical and Dental Colleges of AP.

“We have also decided to approach AP High Court against the government.”

Students and parents are worried over the developments as the Eamcet counselling for admissions will begin from July 25.

Raju lolls in hospital,5 others out on bail

The AP High Court on Tuesday granted bail to B. Rama Raju, former managing director of the Satyam Computers, and four other accused in the Rs 10,000-crore accounting scam.

Mr B. Rama Raju is the brother of B. Ramalinga Raju, the mastermind of the scam. The others who got bail were Srinivas Vadl-amani, former CFO of the company, and three top officials, G. Ramakrishna, Ch. Srisailam and D. Venkatpathy Raju. With this, only Ramalinga Raju, continues to be in jail in the biggest corporate scam of the country that broke out on January 7, 2009. However, he has been avoiding proceedings at the special court set up for the case citing health reasons.

The CBI had arrested Ramalinga Raju, founder of the Satyam Computers, and nine others last year for the accounting fraud which shook the corporate world.

Justice Raja Elango granted bail to the accused saying that there was no need for them to languish in prison since there was no prospect of the trial commencing in the near future. The judge also referred to the Supreme Court granting bail to Srinivas Talluri, another accused in the Satyam scam.

However, the solicitor-general, Mr Gopal Subramanium, objected to the bail petitions by contending that the accused were influential people and would try to tamper evidence and influence witnesses. Mr T. Niranjan Reddy, the special public prosecutor, also assured that the trial would be completed within six months.

However, the Judge expressed scepticism at the trial concluding within six months citing voluminous records and the need to examine more than 400 witnesses.

Babu is bundled out,gets hero’s welcome

Dharmabad (Nanded district)/Hyderabad, July 20: In a dramatic development, the Maharashtra government dropped all cases against the Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, and 65 party MLAs before they reached Aurangabad jail and forced them to board a special flight to Hyderabad on Tuesday night.

The TD leaders, tired but triumphant, reached Shamshabad Airport at Hyderabad around 10 pm to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of jubilant yellow flag waving party activists and leaders.

Mr Naidu’s wife, Mrs Bhuvaneshwari, and his son, Mr Lokesh, were at the airport along with family members of other MLAs to welcome them.

The TD estimates that the political stock of Mr Naidu had shot up dramatically after his trip to the Babli project site, the arrest and the confinement.

Maharashtra took the decision to fly back the TD leaders after hectic parleys with the Centre and the AP government.

Mr Naidu and 70-odd MLAs were arrested on July 16 on the AP-Maharashtra border village of Bidrelli.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Andhra Pradesh govt condemns lathi-charge on Chandrababu Naidu

Andhra Pradesh government today strongly condemned the police lathi-charge on TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu and other legislators by Maharashtra police.
"I strongly condemn the lathi-charge on Chandrababu Naidu and others by the Maharashtra police while they were being shifted from Dharmabad this morning," Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah said in a statement.

He also appealed the TDP cadres not to cause damage to public properties in the state in protest against the lathi-charge.

"Everyone has to observe restraint on a delicate issue like the Babhli dam. Our government is sincerely working to protect the interests of Andhra Pradesh in a democratic manner in accordance with the provisions of Constitution.

"I am leading an all-party delegation on the issue to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 23. I appeal to all political parties and people to join hands with the government in finding an amicable solution to the current problem," Rosaiah said.

Meanwhile, senior TDP MLAs N Janardhan Reddy and P Keshav, party general secretary Varla Ramaiah, MLC D Veerbhadra Rao and some party workers were arrested by police when they tried to storm into the Jubilee Hall, where Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was engaged in a meeting with Finance Ministers from southern states.

The TDP delegation wanted to meet Mukherjee and Rosaiah to lodge the party's protest over the lathi-charge on Naidu and others.

SLC to gift golden plaque to Murali

One of the "special and surprise" gifts to Test retiring bowler, Muthiah Muralidharan will be a very precious gold plaque by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), it is learnt. According to highly placed sources in SLC, Muralidharan will be presented a gold plaque of worth LKR 2.5 million (1 million Indian rupees).

"It will be presented by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the last day of the Galle Test match", the source added. "Muralidharan has been very close to the president, who has assured his presence during the prize distribution ceremony of the Galle Test which is legendary bowler's farewell Test", the source further added.

"There will be few more gifts from the individuals also. The Galle people (southern province) also have decided to present Murali a special gift made from gold", the gentleman added. An elephant carved from ivory, laced with solid 18-carat gold and studded with precious gems, will be gifted to Muthiah Muralitharan.

"The gold plaque has been prepared by Vogue Jewellers (VJ), one of the leading bridal jewellery establishments in Colombo".

Obama to sign Wall Street Reform Bill on Wednesday

The US President, Mr Barack Obama, would on Wednesday sign into law the sweeping Wall Street Reform Bill that was passed by both the Chamber of the Congress - House of Representatives and the Senate - last week. The White House on Tuesday announced that Mr Obama would sign the bill at a public ceremony to be attended by key architects of the Wall Street Reform that seeks to make financial institutions more accountable and prevent the reoccurrence of the collapse of the market as it happened in 2008. Passed by the Congress the sweeping financial overhaul legislation is considered to be a major legislative and political victory for the US President, whose poll numbers have experienced a downward slide this year. After the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill, this is the second major legislative achievement of his presidency this year. "From now on, every American will be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make financial decisions that are best for you. This bill will crack down on abusive practices and unscrupulous mortgage lenders," Obama said last week. "It will reinforce the new credit card law we passed banning unfair rate hikes, and ensure that folks aren't unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account," he said, adding that it will give students who take out college loans clear information and make sure lenders don't cheat the system. "It will ensure that every American receives a free credit score if they are denied a loan or insurance because of that score. All told, this reform puts in place the strongest consumer financial protections in history, and it creates a new consumer watchdog to enforce those protections," he said.
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